1961 Damita Jo – I’ll Be There
Answer songs have been around since the twenties. Perhaps the most famous answer song is one that doesn’t appear to be an answer song at all.
Woody Guthrie became tired of hearing Kate Smith sing God Bless America, and in early 1940 he wrote a song he initially titled God Blessed America. The first line was very familiar: “This land is your land, and this land is my land.” The last line of the first verse ended with “God blessed America for me.”
Woody didn’t do much with the song for four years, but in 1944 he rewrote it. The last line of each verse became “This land was made for you and me,” and the song became This Land. The song became a standard for folksingers.
An example from the rock era came about after Neil Sedaka had a top ten hit with Oh! Carol in 1959 and Carole King responded by recording Oh, Neil.
Many answer songs were sung by a woman answering a song sung by a man. The two most successful singles by Damita Jo were each answer songs to two songs originally sung by Ben E. King.
Damita Jo DeBlanc sang lead vocals for Steve Gibson and the Red Caps, and they released singles on RCA Victor Records beginning in 1952. She and Steve became married, but they divorced and she left the group in 1959.
Ben sang lead for the Drifters on the song Save The Last Dance For Me. The single topped the Hot 100 in October 1960. Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote the song. Polio had placed Doc in a wheelchair, and he was inspired to write the song after watching his wife dancing with other men at their wedding reception. The answer song I’ll Save The Last Dance For You clearly uses the same music with some slightly different lyrics. Damita Jo had released two other singles that failed to get her solo career moving, but her single release of I’ll Save The Last Dance For You peaked at #22 on the Hot 100 in December.
Damita Jo’s next two singles did not do well.
Ben left the Drifters. He worked with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the producers of Save The Last Dance For Me, and the three wrote Stand By Me. The single topped the R&B chart and reached the top ten on the Hot 100 in 1961.
New lyrics were written, and the answer song became I’ll Be There rather than I’ll Stand By You. Damita Jo’s single did even better than her first answer song, reaching #12 on the Hot 100 in 1961. Although the song’s title is the same as songs by The Jackson Five, Mariah Carey, and The Escape Club, it’s completely different from those songs.
Damita Jo’s next single was a cover version of a song that was a top ten record for three artists in 1944. The Andrews Sisters sang the song in the film Her Lucky Night in 1945. Damita Jo’s version of Dance With A Dolly (With A Hole In Her Stocking) didn’t reach the Hot 100 in the US, but the record reached number 3 in Sweden. Her two answer songs were also top three records in Sweden.
Damita Jo never got near the top forty again. She became a jazz performer and recorded ten albums in the sixties. She died from a respiratory illness in 1998.
I post links to my Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day each day on Facebook. My books are on sale on Amazon (or free with Kindle Unlimited) and contain a lot more Lost or Forgotten Oldies. You can visit my author page to see them and you can read them for free with Kindle Unlimited!